Cinco de Mayo Around the First Coast: A Food Guide

Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862-however in the U.S. it has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture and cuisine. The First Coast has more than its fair share of delicious Mexican restaurants and we decided to highlight some of our favorite places to grab Mexican fare in honor of the holiday on Sunday.

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TacoLu- Jax Beach

Taco Lu in Jacksonville Beach is a popular locals place and a must try for visitors. This restaurant mixes a chill surfer vibe with an authentic Mexican flare. You can dine inside or outside on their cozy patios. Outside, enjoy the beautiful murals painted on the walls while sipping on a glass of one of their many tequilas. Inside you’ll find intimate tables with brick fire places nearby for colder evenings, beautiful sugar skulls throughout the restaurant, and a variety of Spanish themed décor. Tacolu is also versatile for those stopping in for happy hour with a lively bar area that includes a spin the wheel drink selection, a couple of sports TV’s, and a wall of tequila. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here. They feature a variety of different taco selections, all reasonably priced. The staff here is extremely accommodating and friendly. Another great bonus to dining here is their complimentary valet parking. This comes in handy on a crowded weekend or holiday night!

Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar-Atlantic Beach

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photo credit: Flying Iguana Facebook

Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar  is located in the heart of Neptune Beach and offers delicious food, craft cocktails and a lively atmosphere. We would highly recommend the queso fondito and their speciality tacos like their Farm to Taco, Flying Fish Taco or their Dirty South Taco. You HAVE to try their Mexican street corn appetizer- it’s delicious. They also have an extensive list of specialty margaritas and other craft cocktails.

Burrito Gallery- Jax Beach and Downtown

Burrito Gallery is a local favorite that serves delicious and affordable Mexican food in a colorful atmosphere. They serve craft Margaritas and other cocktails along with burritos and tacos with unique fresh flavors like the fried chicken tender BLT taco. We would recommend trying the cajun shrimp or mahi burritos. They also offer a great happy hour and late night happy hour. The Burrito Gallery is having a celebration for Cinco de Mayo at all of their locations.

Cantina Laredo- St. John’s Town Center/Southside

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Cantina Laredo is located in the heart of the St. John’s Town Center and serves gourmet Mexican cuisine with a modern twist and an upscale dining experience to match. They are a national chain but their Jacksonville location is a wonderful place to go for Mexican cuisine if you are looking for a nice night out. We recommend that you try their steak fajitas or fish tacos as well as their sopa de tortilla. They are also having a Cinco de Mayo party on the patio with prizes starting at 3:00 PM on Saturday.

Lola’s Burrito and Burger Joint- Riverside

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photo credit: Facebook

Lola’s Burrito and Burger Joint  is located in the heart of the 5 points in the Riverside area. They serve a variety of cocktails and beer from local breweries along with a diverse menu of Tex-Mex fare. We recommend you sample one of their gourmet burgers with yucca fries or one of their grilled burritos. Lola’s often has events such as Taco Tuesdays and they are having an all day Cinco de Mayo celebration with discounted food and drinks along with a raffle drawing.

La Nopalera- San Marco

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photo credit: yelp

La Nopalera is a local Jacksonville family owned chain that serves traditional Mexican food and classic dishes. Their San Marco location is the one to check out- it is a neighborhood favorite due to it’s whimsical, vibrant atmosphere. We recommend you try their fajitas along with their house margarita.

Mi Casa Café- St. Augustine

Mi Casa Cafe is a fantastic restaurant in the heart of historic downtown St. Augustine that has live music and a beer and wine garden. A local favorite with a small but excellent menu this restaurant is all about the great location and lively atmosphere. We would recommend you try their hot Cuban sandwich or black beans and rice.

Mr. Taco Food Truck- Various Locations

Mr. Taco is located in a quiet neighborhood plaza located just off Bowden road. This authentic Mexican restaurant features your classic dishes from tacos and burritos to tortas and tostadas with flare. The atmosphere is cozy with friendly staff making for an enjoyable dining atmosphere. Not located near the southside area? Don’t fret! Mr. Taco has a fleet of taco trucks posted around the city, making it convenient to get your taco fix on the go! For a list of their food truck locations, check out the page on their website here.

My Post Copy (2)

Featured Places:

Flying Iguana
flyingiguana.com
207 Atlantic Blvd, Neptune Beach, FL 32266
(904) 853-5680

Cantina Laredo
http://www.cantinalaredo.com
10282 Bistro St, Jacksonville, FL 32246
(904) 997-6110

Mi Casa Cafe
micasacafe.com
69 Saint George St, Saint Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 824-9317

TacoLu
tacolu.com
1712 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 249-8226

La Nopalera San Marco
lanopjax.com
1434 Hendricks Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207
904-288-0175

Burrito Gallery
burritogallery.com
Downtown:
21 E Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
(904) 598-2922
Jax Beach:
300 Beach Blvd Ste 1, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 246-6521

Mr. Taco Food Truck
mrtacojax.com/food-trucks
6426 Bowden Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32246
Various food truck locations check website
(904) 438-5202

Lola’s Burrito and Burger Joint
lolasburritojoint.com
1522 King St
Jacksonville, Florida 32204
(904) 738-7181

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Savannah: Swept with the Spirit of St. Patrick’s Day

Every year over 300,000 people flock to Savannah to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day making it one of the largest celebrations in the world. St. Patrick’s Day is a few days away and Savannah is only a short drive from Jacksonville.

Earlier this month we headed there for a night’s stay to check out some great local spots. Upon our arrival it was evident that the St. Patrick’s Day spirit had already begun to sweep through the city.

St. Patrick’s Day events begin in early March in Savannah, which makes it one of the best times of year to visit. Savannah hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades, this site  has all of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities listed including a parade schedule.

In addition to the parade the city hosts the St. Patrick’s Day Festival which will take place this year on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17. The festival invites guests to enjoy a variety of live music, unique goods from different vendors and drinks on the Savannah River. The city also has “The Greening of the Fountain” in Forsyth Park on March 10th, where all the fountains are dyed green to kick of a week of celebrations.

Upon arriving in Savannah, the luck of the Irish was already in the air as the wind danced through the Spanish moss that dripped from the Live oak trees. We stayed at the Cotton Sail Hotel which is situated in the heart of Savannah’s Historic Downtown district.

This beautiful hotel is located in a restored historic building (in the 1800’s it was a cotton warehouse, hence the name) and it faces River Street, a location which gives guests access everything the Hostess City has to offer.

Their rooftop allows for breathtaking views of the city and it has Top Deck , a wonderful rooftop bar. One of the most memorable parts of our trip was when we were able to take in fireworks Friday night on the rooftop of the hotel.

After checking in we decided to explore the city and grab lunch. We headed towards the area that encompasses the campus of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The college is surrounded by eclectic restaurants and shops which cater to the hip, artistic taste of their student body. We saw some unique shops which featured a variety of SCAD alumni craftsmanship.

It was difficult to choose from the multitude of delicious restaurants in the area- which  offered everything from Thai to noodles to quick Southern fried fare. We chose Tequila’s Town Mexican Restaurant and enjoyed some delicious fish tacos and chicken flautas. The food was incredibly fresh and perfectly seasoned. The atmosphere was lively and laid back.

Friday night the city comes alive and we saw several local shops and restaurants which caught our eye as we wandered around the squares of Historic Downtown Savannah. Here are a few of note:

In Reynolds Square we recommend the The Olde Pink House, which is housed in a beautiful historic mansion and offers delicious traditional elevated Southern fare. It is the perfect place to enjoy a nice dinner out in the city.

Around the corner from Reynolds Square is a local favorite, The Lucas Theatre which showcases live performances and SCAD events. Another great spot in this area is Leopold’s Ice Cream which has award-winning, homemade ice cream in a variety of flavors.

On our walk through the squares there were a multitude of places that caught our eye- since we only had 24 hours to try everything ourselves here are just a few we’d like to mention:

The Foley House Inn is a lovely B&B that I had stayed in years before. They offer a wine and cheese hour, dessert and coffee as well as a delicious breakfast- all included. I would highly recommend the Foley House Inn to anyone looking to have an authentic and unique stay in Savannah.

The restaurant the Public Kitchen and Bar which had gorgeous decor and was already packed with patrons in the early evening hours when we walked by. Their menu features an eclectic mix of American cuisine and they serve hand crafted cocktails.

Later that evening we headed towards Madison Square which was lined with several enchanting shops and restaurants. A beautiful hotel located on the square is the Desoto which is one I made note to check out on my next stay. Madison Square is also where E. Shaver, Bookseller is located. We fell in love with this shop because of it’s wonderful selection of books, novelty items and quaint tea shop.

River Street is where visitors can take in some of the best of Savannah’s nightlife. Friday night on River Street did not disappoint- musicians played live music along the street and the bars, shops and restaurants were packed with merrymakers.

We decided to have dinner at Rocks on the River Restaurant , which is located inside the Bohemian hotel. We were greeted with lots of Southern hospitality and freshly baked bread. The service was excellent- the staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The restaurant offered an eclectic menu filled with a variety of southern specialties. We ordered the fried green tomatoes (a staple on most menus in restaurants in Savannah) and the pulled chicken. We finished our meal with the chocolate lava cake.

Here are some other places to check out on River Street:

You can smell the freshly made pecan pralines the minute you walk into River Street Sweets and there is no way you can say no to indulging in your sweet tooth when you are faced with options like their decadent chocolate covered strawberries and caramel apples.

River Street has a variety of lively bars and pubs that are a must stop for anyone interested in the Savannah night life. Bars like Wet Willies which has over a dozen different flavors of frozen daiquiris and pubs like Kevin Barry’s  (which is sure to be packed to the brim during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities) line River Street and city laws allow for patrons to enjoy their drinks outside along the Savannah river.

Saturday morning we decided to head to one of the most gorgeous churches in Savannah, the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. This historic church is stunning with it’s hand painted high arched ceilings and elaborate stained glass windows. We spent some time admiring the beauty and taking in the serene atmosphere.

After our visit to the church we headed across the street for brunch at the quaint Mirabelle Cafe. They serve homemade waffles with a variety of toppings that are absolutely delicious. They also have delicious coffee and specialty drinks- I recommend trying their uniquely flavored lavender latte. They also serve paninis with house made chips and savory quiches. We tried one of each, which was the perfect cap to our 24 hours in Savannah!

Every time I go to Savannah I always leave with plans for my next trip back because the enchanting city has so much to offer it’s hard to take it all in at once. March is the perfect time of year to visit the Hostess City of the South and with their epic St. Patrick’s Day festivities already underway I’m sure thousands more visitors will leave Savannah feeling the same way after the week’s end.

Featured Places:

Tequila’s Town Mexican Restaurant
109 Whitaker St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 236-3222

Leopold’s Ice Cream
212 E Broughton St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 234-4442

The Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront
102 W Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 721-3800

Rocks on the River Restaurant
102 W Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 721-3800

River Street Sweets
13 E River St
(912) 234-4608

Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub
117 W River St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-9626

Wet Willie’s
101 E River St
(912) 233-5650

Foley House Inn
14 Hull St
(912) 232-6622

The Public Kitchen and Bar
1 W Liberty St
(912) 200-4045

Mirabelle Cafe
313 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 335-7255

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
222 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-4709

The Cotton Sail Hotel
126 W Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 200-3700

The Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn St
(912) 232-4286

Lucas Theatre For the Arts
32 Abercorn St
(912) 525-5040

The DeSoto Savannah
15 E Liberty, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 232-9000

E Shaver Booksellers Book store in Savannah, Georgia
326 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 234-7257

A Weekend on The Treasure Coast

Jupiter, Florida is an easy three and a half hour drive down the south of Florida’s east coast. I spent a weekend here for a family gathering and it certainly contains some great Florida treasures.

We arrived in town Friday night and ordered pizza from Two Brothers Pizza. This local establishment features good, old fashioned Italian cooking. Check out the menu here.

My personal favorite is the Grandma Pizza with fresh garlic, basil, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and plum tomato sauce. Just writing about that makes my mouth water! If you’re looking for a great local ice cream place that has been in this area for years, make sure you check out Sweetie’s Ice Cream Shop.

This ice cream parlor has all the classic flavors and more, plus the feel-good atmosphere only a small-town business can offer!

The Jupiter and Hobe Sound area has a plethora of day activities. Looking to start your day with an old-fashioned diner breakfast? I highly recommend The Old Dixie Café.

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This café has charm, old cars, and great food. You may even see the owner sitting in his spot out front! If you’re looking for an awesome breakfast dish, you must try their cinnamon nut French toast is amazing and their burgers can’t be beat!

The diner is also filled with lots of car memorabilia, old license plates bordering the walls, and a Burt Reynolds wall. The food is great, and you can truly enjoy it being surrounded in a place with so much character!

Looking for some fun activities to fill your day? The beaches in the Hobe Sound and Jupiter area are breathtaking.

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Crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, and you will find that they are not as crowded as other beaches along on the south Florida coast. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, I highly recommend Dubois Park and Lagoon. This park is located near the Jupiter inlet. It’s a great place to explore, bring a picnic lunch, relax in the calm lagoon or just take a short walk over the dunes and you’re at the beach!

The Jupiter Lighthouse is another great park to explore if you’re in the area. You can climb to the top to get the best view in Palm Beach County!

After a long day, what better way to end it than with dinner on the water. The Port Salerno area offers local seafood dining options with a breathtaking view of the water, overlooking local fishing boats nestled in the quiet harbor. The Twisted Tuna, King Neptune Restaurant, and Manatee Island Bar and Grill are all excellent dining options featuring local seafood, live music, and waterfront dining. Take your time perusing through the quaint shops in this area, you may just find a unique treasure to take home with you.

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Enjoy your visit to Florida’s Treasure Coast!

Valentine’s Day Date Series 3: Beaches

It’s the last of our Valentine’s Day date series and we saved the beaches for last…which is my neck of the woods! Here are a few great date spots at the beaches and a few date ideas for different budgets.

On a Budget:

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An Evening Picnic on the Beach

If you’re on a budget an evening picnic on the beach is the perfect date.
A beach picnic is the ideal way to get creative and fill your basket with all sorts of goodies that are personalized to your taste. You can stop by Trader Joe’s or Fresh Market on your way to the beach and stock up. A moderately priced bottle of wine is a great addition to the meal. Two great less expensive white wines that I would recommend are the Domaine Vinet Domaine de la Quilla 2012, which sells for under 13 bucks or the Henri Perrusset 2012, which is only $18. The night will cost you about $35-40 dollars depending on your wine selection.

For Any Budget: 

See a show at Players by the Sea

Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach is a wonderful community theater that puts on several shows a year. This is the perfect spot at the beach for a unique and exciting date. Here  is a schedule of performances and you can get your tickets here.

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Hit up the bars in downtown Jax Beach

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The Jacksonville Beach downtown area has a vibrant nightlife. The bars that line the streets of downtown are sure to provide a lively time on any date. Make sure to check out Hoptinger and Surfer the Bar. 

Going All Out: 

A Spa Weekend at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

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The AAA five diamond award winning Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in Ponte Vedra Beach has been listed as one of Travel and Leisure’s top 500 Hotels in the world and was called one of the “20 most romantic resorts in North America” by the Washington Post. A country club as well as a resort, they offer an array of luxury amenities which includes multiple pools, a private beach and a full service spa. It costs $840 for one of their weekend spa packages which includes a two nights stay in a suite with access to all of their spa amenities and a discount on all of their spa services.

Where to Eat: 

Dinner: 

Poppy’s Italiano

Poppy’s Italiano is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the Jacksonville area. Their garlic bread alone is worth the trip! They have classic Italian dishes like lasagna, chicken parmesan and fettuccine Alfredo. They also have an extensive list of specialty pastas and create your own pasta on the menu. They offer an extensive wine list and serve everything in a small, dimly lit, romantic atmosphere.

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Dwight’s Bistro

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Dwight’s Bistro is one of the best date spots at the beaches. Dwight’s is a small, intimate bistro with elegant décor. Their food is exceptional and they offer rich delicacies from start to finish. Try the crab cakes, pan cooked foie gras or chef’s cheese plate as an appetizer and finish with sea bass, filet mignon or a homemade pasta dish as an entrée. Dwight’s also has an extensive wine list to pair with your meal.

Dessert/Coffee: 

Bold Bean at the Beaches

Bold Bean  is the perfect place to go for coffee on a beaches date because of it’s sleek modern atmosphere, quality beverages and strong local ties. Bold Bean has a variety of hot beverages, coffee and espresso drinks as well as craft beer and baked goods.  It’s a great place to relax and chat with your date.

Whit’s Frozen Custard

Whit’s  is one of my favorite dessert spots at the beach. In fact, there are two Whit’s locations in the beaches area. One is located in downtown Atlantic Beach and they have another location in Jacksonville Beach. Their creamy, delicious homemade frozen custard comes in a variety of flavors. I recommend you try a Whitser, which is a mix of frozen custard and toppings of your choice.

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Photo Credit: Whit’s

Lucy’s Sweet Shop

Lucy’s Sweet Shop offers handcrafted cookies, cupcakes and cakes in a variety of flavors. The shop is located inside a plaza near the beach so it offers outdoor seating on a relaxing patio and it’s so close to the beach you can go for a moonlit walk before or after dessert!

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Cinotti’s Bakery

Cinotti’s Bakery is a beaches bakery that never disappoints! Cinotti’s offers hand decorated cookies, cakes, cupcakes and donuts. The variety of flavors, colors and sizes of the goodies displayed in their bake cases when you walk into the shop is enough to send those with a sweet tooth into seventh heaven!

So now if you decide to head to the beaches for Valentine’s Day or for any date night you’re sure to do it right- on any budget! The beaches area has it all and the sweets are sure to satisfy as much as the sands and shore!

Featured Places: 

Players By the Sea Theater
106 6th St N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 249-0289

Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
200 Ponte Vedra Blvd. Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
(866) 748-8083

Hoptinger Jacksonville Beach
333 1st Street North
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 222-0796

Surfer the Bar
200 1st St. North, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Phone: (904) 372-9756

Poppy’s Italiano
832-1 A1A N, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
(904) 273-7272

Dwight’s Bistro
1527 Penman Rd Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
904-241-4496

Bold Bean Coffee Roasters -Beaches
2400 3rd St S. Suite 201
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250 (904) 853-6545

Whit’s Frozen Custard of Jax Beach
1232 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 595-5891
Whit’s Frozen Custard of Atlantic Beach
38 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
(904) 853-5384

Lucy’s Sweet Shop
2435 3rd Street S.
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250

Cinotti’s Bakery
1523 Penman Rd
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
904-246-1728

 

Valentine’s Day Date Series Part 2: Southside and the Town Center

Looking for a weeknight date idea with Valentine’s day just around the corner? Read on for the scoop on some great date ideas in the Southside area.

Up next in our date series we’re featuring another local neighborhood in Jacksonville, the Southside area. Southside is somewhat centrally located in Jacksonville. It’s very close to the St. John’s Town Center and the highway, so it’s just a short drive away from downtown.

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This week we headed to a local brewery, Bottlenose Brewing, for dinner and a trivia night.  Bottlenose Brewing is in the Tinseltown plaza. Formerly World of Beer, this brewery is located near Moe’s Southwestern Grill and Mellow Mushroom. Bottlenose holds their 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s trivia night every Tuesday night at 7:30pm. They also have other events and specials happening every week including Happy Hour, $1 off drafts and wine, Monday through Friday from 3pm to 7pm and Ladies Night – $1 Wine, Wednesdays from 6pm to 9pm.

Since this date was on a Tuesday night we decided to double date with a great couple that we’re close friends with. It was fun to team up together and pull our collective knowledge of pop culture going back a few decades.

We loved the atmosphere at Bootlenose. They’ve got a great menu that features traditional pub fare and an extensive beer menu. I highly recommend the pretzel sticks with beer cheese sauce- delicious!

Bottlenose Brewing features local beers brewed in the city and beers from other breweries in the state. Service is at the bar only, so when you’re ready to order make sure you go to the bar, a waiter or waitress will not take your order. Bottlenose also has a variety of board games you can play while you wait for trivia to start and your food to arrive. We loved playing games like Jenga, Sorry!, and Trouble.

img_4597The Tinseltown movie theater is within walking distance from Bottlenose, so if you’re looking to end your night with a romantic trip to the movies, it’s only a short walk away. The Tinseltown movie theater has some of the most comfortable movie theater seats I have ever encountered. It truly makes for a relaxing experience with your very own recliner and footrest.

If you’re looking for some other date ideas in the Southside area head to the St. Johns Town Center. The Town Center area has grown like wildfire in recent years and features a wide variety of shops and restaurants all showcased in an outdoor setting, which is perfect for a stroll with your date on a moonlit night.

Here are a few places to check out:

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

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This restaurant is located inside the Markets at the Town Center and serves contemporary cuisine and craft cocktails in a modern, romantic atmosphere. Moxie has two stories and each one is equipped with a full bar and outdoor patio seating. The decor and mood lighting will add to the ambiance of your date.

Their menu is eclectic with dinner entrees that include items like gourmet burgers, filet mignon and chicken and waffles. The creative decor and menu is sure to satisfy any couple looking for a unique date.

Blackfinn Ameripub

The restaurant is also located inside the Markets at the Town Center and features a diverse menu of classic American pub fare like fish tacos, fried chicken and burgers. They serve craft beer and cocktails in a lively atmosphere.

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Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse

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The elegant and upscale restaurant serves up authentic Brazilian cuisine with menu items that include a variety of meats served in the traditional Southern Brazilian style and a variety of seafood, sauces and sides. They also have Brazilian style cocktails like the caipirinha, which is the national cocktail of Brazil.

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These are just a few places but the St. John’s Town center area has countless restaurants in all prices ranges and genres, so every couple is sure to find something! See their site here for a full list of stores and businesses.

 

Featured Places:

Bottlenose Brewing  
9700 Deer Lake Ct #1, Jacksonville, FL 32246
(904) 551-7570

Cinemark Tinseltown and XD  
4535 Southside Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32216
(904) 998-2122

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails  
4972 Big Island Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32246
(904) 998-9744

Blackfinn Ameripub – Jacksonville  
4840 Big Island Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32246
(904) 345-3466

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse  
4784 Town Center Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32246
(904) 512-7300

 

Host a Winter Beach Bonfire Party

If you’re looking for a unique gathering to host this winter what could be more festive than a winter bonfire on the beach? Atlantic Beach is one of the Jacksonville area’s most festive beaches and during the winter months the city of Atlantic Beach allows for the public to apply for permits to have beach fires after sundown.

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Apply for a permit with the city of Atlantic Beach here the permit costs $26.75 for one fire pit which can host up to 20 guests.

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This is the perfect time to host a beach bonfire party because according to the city’s website, no open fires are allowed on the beach during sea turtle nesting season which is March 1 through Oct. 31 by Florida State law.
There are multiple pits available near several beach access areas once the city issues you a permit when they approve your application.

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Once you submit your application the city usually issues you a permit within 24 hours. After you have your permit you’re ready to host your winter bonfire!

To stock up for the night head around the corner to Lucky’s Market in Neptune Beach to get all your bonfire essentials.

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The Menu

S’mores (obviously) but there are several ways to get creative with the food you serve at your bonfire.

Lucky’s has a great unique selection of candy in bulk as well as chocolate and yogurt covered pretzels which can help you get creative with your s’mores toppings. Lucky’s also has a great selection of gourmet chocolate in a variety of exotic flavors such as chili, quinoa, brown butter and bacon.

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The city of Atlantic Beach states that alcoholic beverages are not allowed during the beach fires but that doesn’t mean you can’t serve wonderful non-alcoholic drink options like hot chocolate, which is perfect for a winter bonfire. In addition to hot chocolate there are several ways to get creative with your party beverages when shopping at Lucky’s. The store has fresh in house squeezed juice and an assortment of uncommon beverages like cane cola, birch beer, butterscotch beer and organic green apple soda.

Party Set Up

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The permits allow for beach fires near certain areas on the beach near public beach access. One area we would suggest applying for a permit in would be the 7th street beach access because it is near a lot of public parking areas and public restrooms.

Allow yourself a little time before sunset to set up and start the fire. Make sure you bring things like folding tables and beach chairs along with any other additional items like blankets and party favors to set up for your guests. We would suggest getting cheap party favors like glow necklaces or glow sticks which can be bought at Walmart or any craft store like Michael’s and sparklers- and remember to be safe with the sparklers!

One of the best things about living on the first coast is the access to the area’s beautiful beaches and this winter season is the perfect time to make use of that by hosting a bonfire party- and we found out this past weekend that it’s a fact that s’mores taste better cooked over an open flame on the beach! Hope you’re bonfire is as fun as ours!

 

Valentine’s Day Date Series Part 1: St. Augustine

It’s that time of year, the month of love is almost in full swing! You can already see the Valentine’s Day decorations popping up at your local Target or Michael’s, we’re starting to be bombarded by the trailers for cheesy romantic comedies and the latest Fifty Shades installment, you can’t escape it! So we thought we’d hop on Cupid’s bandwagon, (or is it arrow?) so we decided to create a “date series” leading up to Valentine’s day that showcases some great date nights in different neighborhoods in North East Florida.

Our first date in this series is a quick trip down to the historic city of St. Augustine. St. Augustine is only about a 45-minute drive from Jacksonville. There is a plethora of activities to do while in St. Augustine. We chose to put on our tourist hats and decided to visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. The lighthouse is a great place for the couple who loves adventure, history and nature. It also provides scenic views in a unique setting.

General admission to the museum and grounds is $12.95 per adult. For more information check out their website here. Once you have paid for your ticket you are given a map and are free to explore! My boyfriend and I started by walking through what is now the museum housed in what was formerly the Lighthouse Keepers’ House.

img_4481The museum is interactive so you can learn all about lighthouse keeping in the late 1800’s. On the second floor there are hands-on options in the archaeological discovery lab. Here you can go down to the “ocean floor” and explore a ship wreck. How many dates takes you exploring a ship wreck? After meandering through the museum we climbed the lighthouse steps.

 

The St. Augustine lighthouse has 219 steps, there are small rest areas with history tidbits on every few flights of stairs, so feel free to go at your own pace! Once you’ve reached the top, the view is breathtaking. You’ll be able to see historic downtown, the river and  the beautiful beaches all from this height. You can just picture the romance this would create at sunset when the two of you reach the top!

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Other things to check out around the museum are the Heritage Boatworks, where you can observe small wooden watercraft being built for the water and the artifact conservation viewing where there are actual artifacts from shipwrecks on display.

After spending the afternoon at the lighthouse we headed to historic downtown St. Augustine for dinner. I’ve eaten at a few of these restaurants before- The Columbia Restaurant, Mojo Old City BBQ, Scarlett O’Hara’s, but tonight we decided to grab a slice of pizza at Pizzalley’s on St. George. Pizzalley’s is a quaint little pizzeria with cozy indoor and outdoor seating. The menu features a variety of gourmet pizzas, all also available by the slice.

 

After eating it’s great to just walk around downtown and browse the shops. The scene downtown adds to the adventurous and historic flavor of this date- in fact you may see people dressed in period costumes marching to a drum line! St. Augustine is also home to the Castillo de San Marcos and Flagler College, both beautiful facilities that showcase unique architecture with a lot of history behind them. These buildings are great for the couple who loves art and photography because they allow for endless conversation and photo opportunities.

 

We visited St. Augustine in early January when the lights from the city’s seasonal Night of Lights were still illuminating the area. We ended our date with a romantic stroll through the park underneath the lights.

 

Where to Eat:

On our date we grabbed pizza but there are countless restaurants in St. Augustine that are perfect for a romantic night out. One place we would recommend is Columbia Restaurant in the St. Augustine Historic District. The whimsical atmosphere is perfect for a date and they offer a variety of gourmet menu options, tapas, an extensive wine list and craft cocktails. The Marriott traveler put together a date night dining guide which can be found here that offers several more perfect dining options for your St. Augustine date.

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Photo Credit: Marriott traveler

Desserts: 

To grab something sweet with your sweetie at the end of the night we would suggest heading to Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar in downtown St. Augustine. They offer a variety of gourmet waffles with delicious toppings and creamy, rich milkshakes as well as espresso and waffle bites.

Other Attractions: 

The J & S Carousel:

Another place that is perfect for a romantic photo op is the J & S Carousel. It adds a bit of whimsy and fun to any date. It is a full-size antique carousel located in Davenport Park in St. Augustine, which is just north of the historic downtown area.

Ghost Tours:

For those couples who love spooky things or history we recommend you try one of the St. Augustine ghost tours. There are several, each with it’s own unique flavor, so pick one that appeals to you. Here are a few that we would suggest.

Catch Some Live Music

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre  is a great place to catch live national acts and local music events. There are also several bars and restaurants that feature live music every night in downtown St. Augustine. You can also sometimes catch a few street musicians performing depending on the night!

Carriage Rides:

A perfect activity for your romantic St. Augustine date is a carriage ride. St. Augustine Carriages is one of a few places that provides romantic carriage tours of the city.

Featured Places: 

Columbia Restaurant:
98 St. George Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084

Pizzalley’s on St. George:
117 St George St, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Cousteau’s:
15 Hypolita Street
Saint Augustine, Florida
32084

J & S Carousel at Davenport Park:
180 San Marco Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32080

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum:
81 Lighthouse Avenue
St. Augustine, Florida 32080

St. Augustine Amphitheatre:
1340C A1A S, St. Augustine, FL 32080

St Augustine Carriages:
1 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, FL 32084

 

 

 

 

-Adriana